Petrogenetic implications of Ti, Zr, Y, and Nb variations in volcanic rocks

  • Julian A. Pearce
  • Michael J. Norry


Data from experimental runs, coexisting phases in ultramafic rocks and phenocryst-matrix pairs in volcanic rocks have been used to compile a table of mineral-liquid distribution coefficients for Ti, Zr, Y, and Nb for basic, intermediate and acid melt compositions. These values have then been used to interpret variations of these elements, first in basalts and second, during fractional crystallization from basic to acid magmas. For basalts, petrogenetic modelling of Zr/Y, Zr/Ti, and Zr/Nb ratios, when used in conjunction with REE, Cr and isotopic variations, suggests that: (1) the increase in Zr/Y ratio from mid-ocean ridge to within plate basalts and the low Zr/Nb ratios of alkalic basalts are due to (fluid controlled) source heterogeneities; (2) the low Zr and Zr/Y ratio of volcanic arc basalts results from high degree of partial melting of a depleted source; and (3) the high Zr and similar Zr/Y ratio of basalts from fast spreading relative to slow spreading ridges results from open-system fractional crystallization. Modelling of fractionation trends in more evolved rocks using Y-Zr, Ti-Zr and Nb-Zr diagrams highlights in particular the change in crystallizing mafic phases from island arcs (clinopyroxene-dominated) to Andean-type arcs (amphibole±biotite-dominated). These methods can be applied to altered lavas of unknown affinities to provide additional information on their genesis and eruptive environment.


Volcanic Rock Fractional Crystallization Spreading Ridge Acid Magma Petrogenetic Modelling 
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© Springer-Verlag 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julian A. Pearce
    • 1
  • Michael J. Norry
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Earth SciencesThe Open UniversityMilton KeynesGreat Britain
  2. 2.Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of LeedsGreat Britain

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